Independent retail stores witness “explosive” year-on-year growth in first half

New data from the Local Data Company and the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) shows that traditional independent shops opened significantly more shops than in the same period last year, whilst the national chains (with more than five stores nationally) continued to see a fall.

Independent shops saw an increase of +762 shops (+0.27%) in H1 2017. This is a significant rise from the net increase of +4 shops (+0.00%) in H1 2016. A net increase of +562 units in H1 2017 on the high streets was one of the main drivers in the growth of independent retailing in H1 2017, with this being a +181% increase from the +200 unit growth in H1 2016.

Chain retailers have remained in decline with a net loss of -659 shops (-0.33%) in H1 2017 across GB, which compares to -2,001 shops (-1.02%) in H1 2016. Indeed, just this week, cycling chain Cycle Surgery announced a string of closures.

Once again, service-led retail was the big winner, increasing by the greatest number of doors. An increase on 2016’s numbers by 859 represented a 0/94% growth.

Bike shops were listed in neither the growth or decline sectors, which were dominated by barbers, cafes and hair and beauty openings and pubs, newsagents and electrical goods shows, respectively.

By region the North West saw the greatest rate of openings, up 0.71% over last year’s 0.05%. Meanwhile, the East of England and South West were hardest hit by decline, where numbers dipped 0.09% and 0.11%, respectively.

North of the border in Scotland a change of fortune has become evident, with an increase of 114 units, near double last year’s 63 and following 2015’s net decline of 42.

Telford is the UK’s town with the lowest percentage of independent stores, while Sparkhill in Birmingham has the highest.

Matthew Hopkinson, Director at Local Data Company commented: “The first half of 2017 has seen remarkable growth in the opening of independent shops and food and beverage outlets across Great Britain, with a net increase of +762 new trading stores. This is significant in what is a challenging environment and where many chain retailers are closing stores.

“Of note is the 10% reduction in overall activity (openings and closures) as this reflects increasing uncertainty in the market or where opportunities to invest are reducing. As the numbers show, independents are an increasingly important stakeholder in every town centre up and down the country and therefore an understanding of how they are performing is key. 65% of all the retail and leisure units across Great Britain are independents and this number has increased in recent years. The internet, customisation and providing a personal service is something that will fuel the openings of independents on our high streets.

“History, however, tells us that independents also have the propensity to change rapidly from growth to decline due to the marginal nature of some businesses, shorter lease lengths and wider impacts of changes to the costs funding. For now, it is a good news story and one that we should celebrate and support.”